Our real bride columnist Rachel got married in September this year. We’re following her journey of planning a feminist meets rock n roll wedding.
I’m sad to say I’m the only person I know who has ever been “fired” as a bridesmaid. I was eighteen and the bride was in her early twenties. As the big day came closer, I realised I was expected to pay for my own shoes, dress, hair, make-up, travel and accommodation over the wedding weekend, and for the hen weekend, including all the activities and meals out. I absolutely could not afford to do this, and neither could one of the other bridesmaids who was also in her teens.
I constructed a careful message to the bride, explaining that we simply didn’t have the money and asking if we could maybe talk on the phone about how to make it work for everyone. Minutes later, I received an all-caps response telling me “THIS IS MY WEDDING DAY!!! NOT SOME BIRTHDAY PARTY!” and that I needn’t worry because I was no longer welcome at her wedding… “OR HER LIFE!”.
When I responded, she didn’t reply and we haven’t spoken since. I now realise that this probably wasn’t about me at all, there was clearly a lot else going on and she snapped, plus we were all very young. I still think it’s sad that one day became more important than years of friendship, though. I still think it’s sad that when her marriage ended a couple of years later, we were no longer friends.
When it comes to writing this column, there are a thousand directions I could take. I’m going to stick to the thing I’ve known since that experience when I was eighteen… that my friendships with the people I ask to be part of my bridal party are more important to me than one day of my life, even if it is my wedding day.
Our real bride columnist Rachel got married in September this year. We’re following her journey of planning a feminist meets rock n roll wedding, culminating in us sharing the big day in our last issue of the year! This month she’s been thinking about wedding traditions.
I thought I had a handle on the major bridal traditions and the gripes many of us have with them. Lots of you reading this may have already decided to scratch out the word ‘obey’ from your vows, for example. A lot of modern brides also wrinkle their noses at the idea of ‘being given away’ and what that actually used to mean (that the literal ownership of the bride was changing hands from father to husband). Many have even come to believe that the first dance is tired and unnecessary. Not me, though – it’s my one chance to feel like I’m on Strictly Come Dancing. But I get it. It’s not for everyone.
It turns out I had no idea about the murky origins of so many staple wedding moments. For instance, did you know that the garter removal — that moment where the groom takes off the bride’s garter with his teeth, in front of his nephews, his grandma Joyce and his new father-in-law (I’ve seen it happen from many a stage as a wedding singer and it is never anything other than excruciating, please don’t do it) is the very distant descendant of a medieval tradition that would happen at the end of the wedding feast? Right before bedtime, someone would shout, ‘GET HER!’ and the congregation would launch upon the virgin bride, ripping off pieces of her dress to help unclothe her before the naked part of the nuptials. The bigger the chunk of dress you took home, the better the luck apparently. It’s worth nothing that this gang-undressing is also considered by many to be the great, great, great grandparent of catching the bouquet, as it’s in the same family of ‘taking home a piece of the bride for luck’.
I’ve watched Say Yes to The Dress with my mum for years, so when the first big COVID lockdown ended and all the bridal boutiques were only allowing one or two people to accompany the bride, I felt fine about not taking a big entourage. More often than not, a big group can end in tears, and not the I-just-found-my-dream-dress kind! My auntie is a keen dressmaker, and generously gifted me a budget for my wedding dress, so I went with her and my mum.
To start with, for me, wearing white (or ivory, whatever) is always how I’ve pictured myself on my wedding day. Not because I want to present myself as pure and celebrate my pre-marriage chastity, but because it’s what I want to do. I also want to wear a veil. Not because I want to demonstrate modesty in the presence of God and my future husband, but because they feel fabulous and look amazing. That’s just my personal approach. Whatever anyone wants to wear on their wedding day, if it makes them feel their most confident, comfortable and happy, they should just do it.
Besides colour, there were four things I wanted to be sure of about my dress:
1. I wanted it to be made by an ethical, environmentally conscious brand that values its employees.
2. I wanted a dress that worked with the parts of my body I am not confident about, without feeling caged-in by corsetry and boning.
3. Given that this is the most expensive item of clothing I’ll ever own – and the fact that wearing anything just once is neither sustainable or responsible, even if it is a wedding dress – I wanted to be able to repurpose the dress and wear it again.
4. I wanted it to make me feel like Galadriel, elf queen of Lothlórien… because I’m a massive geek.
For me, the place that offered all of these things was Katya Katya in London. Before I went to Katya Katya, however, I went to Maisie Darling in Lutterworth. My fiancé and I are having a humanist ceremony, which is still not considered a legal marriage in England or Wales (lots of petitions to sign online about that idiocy if you want to look into it). To get the legal bit done we’re heading to the registry in my hometown the day before the big day. I was planning to wear a dress I already own for this, but my auntie’s gift means I’ve been able to find a wedding dress for this ceremony too. I plan to sell this dress after the wedding (on stillwhite.com or bridalreloved.co.uk) and will be donating the money to Girls Not Brides, a global partnership committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls all over the world to fulfil their potential.
When I first saw Katya Katya dresses on Pinterest, I fell in love. And when I discovered their strong ethos – in-house production exclusively using fabrics from Italy and France to reduce ecological footprint; ensuring great working conditions for employees and paying them all a national living wage; offering a dress-shortening service after the wedding so the dress can be worn again – I knew without doubt that I wanted to find my dress with them. Not only that, but pretty much all the elements of their dresses are interchangeable. For example, as someone who doesn’t feel confident about her upper arms, Katya Katya will be adding sleeves to my dress. Female-led, Katya Katya really seem to understand how to help their brides feel their most confident.
Introducing our brand-new real bride columnist! Rachel is getting married in September so we’ll be following her journey of planning a feminist meets rock n roll wedding, culminating in us sharing the big day in our last issue of the year! Over to you Rachel…
The first time I learned about Rock n Roll Bride was at a wedding show in 2015. I was exhibiting with a vintage wedding band and caught sight of Kat’s bright blue hair. I went looking for her, intrigued by this exhibitor, who looked so unlike the wedding industry I’d been used to after five years of wedding singing.
I found the Rock n Roll Bride stand and learned what it was all about: how these friendly people were on a mission to change the face of the wedding industry; to make it more inclusive; to celebrate individualism. With no ring on my finger and no boyfriend(!), I subscribed to the magazine immediately. Five years later, in 2020, it was my turn to be a bride.
Though I believe I would be perfectly happy to be ‘not married’ to this excellent man ’til death us do part, the Disney Princess-loving, Nora Ephron-viewing, Notting Hill-quoting romantic in me really did want to be married to the person I loved. And, luckily, H really wanted it too. “Let’s do it,” we said, “But let’s do it our way.” (Like everyone who reads this magazine says!).
The reason I’d been dubious is feminism. Long and short: I was worried that wanting to be married made me a bad feminist.
I don’t feel I need to explain why I had any reservations about marriage and feminism to the readers of this magazine. If you’re here, clearly you understand that there’s a lot that’s wrong with many marital traditions and you’re up for breaking the status quo in your own special way. One quick Google of the origin of the word ‘wife’ was enough to make me wonder if I was letting the sisterhood down.